For those who don’t know (and that is probably quite a number of people) John French, also known as Drumbo, was the drummer for Don Van Vliet, also known as Captain Beefheart, in his Magic Band from its beginnings to the day until Beefheart, due to his illness quit music altogether.
In his book “Beefheart: Through the Eyes of Magic” and in interviews recollecting his life with an eccentric that Van Vliet, aka Beefheart, was, he recollects that while they were preparing their first album, “Safe As Milk”, Beefheart would write down pieces of lyrics for the songs on almost anything — from scraps of paper to napkins, matches, anything. French would then collect them and put them in order and meaningful lyrics. With Beefheart’s approval, who probably then got new ideas. Like the one later on when he decided to incorporate the sound of his almost exhausted windshield wipers into a song.
Every writer probably has a pile of such scraps of ideas, lines, sentences, even full passages lying around or hurried somewhere on their hard disk, USB, whatever… Sometimes we don’t even know where they are or what is in them. And actually, it is those almost forgotten or simply unconnected ideas that can bring an outpour of not only new ideas but writing that would actually, as another pair of musicians, Richard & Linda Thompson named their album, “Pour Down Like Silver”.
These old scraps are a perfect antidote to any possible fear that you’re out of ideas, that no words will come out. The ’scraps’ can let you remember when and where these ideas and would ‘poured’ out of you and simply pull out new ideas and words and make them settle down into a cohesive whole.
Collecting these old and/or forgotten ideas as if doing a pre-spring cleaning, even changing a spot where you go through them might not only turn into a cohesive whole but possibly into one of the best things you have written until then.
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